Gastrointestinal anatomy, diet selection and digestion in mammals: a brief overview.
Macdonald, Alastair A
One of the challenges zoos face when housing little-know exotic animals is the provision of an adequate diet. The success of such diets is dependant, among other things, on knowledge of the functional anatomy of the digestive tract, knowledge of the diet composition and foraging behaviour of the animals in the wild, knowledge of the dental adaption to the natural diet of the species, knowledge of the bases by which particular food items are selected by the species, together with a knowledge of the implications that the method of foraging and the diet selected has on social behaviour (Hume and Barbosa, 1993). In this chapter particular attention will be paid to the amount of information available on the anatomy of the gastrointestinal tract. It is not our aim to give a complete and detailed account of its structure in every mammalian species but to provide a broad overview of the types of studies which have already been carried out on the groups of species for which there are captive breeding programs. The overview will indicate the gaps in our knowledge and point out needs for further research. We will then briefly illustrate the importance of information on functional morphology of the digestive system when considering how to feed animals in captivity.